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Old 04-09-2011, 09:27 PM   #1
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3 Way wiring possible wrong?


I was attempting to replace a 3-way switch with a new 3 way dimmer and it just wouldn't work correctly. So I pulled everything apart and started tracing out the wires. The first thing I noticed however was that the light at the top of the stairs, by the first 3-way, had both it's ground and neutral tied to ground. So I undid everything and rewired it per the guide on the circuit detective page. The incoming power goes through the basement lights first then up to the first three way. The hot passes through the box with the first 3-way (doesn't connect) down to the second 3-ways common, the travelers go from the second back to the first, then the common from the first goes back through the lights.

Here's the issue though. I can't figure out with this "proper" wiring how to make the light at the top of the stairs work. Was the original wiring with both the neutral and ground wired together wrong? Can I wire it correctly?
See attached, I modified the picture from the circuit detective page to kinda what's going on. Is there another way to wire this?

-Allan
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Old 04-09-2011, 09:39 PM   #2
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3 Way wiring possible wrong?


Your picture diagram is correct for 3 way switch wiring. Dimmers can act funny. If you change just one switch to a dimmer the light will only dim when that switch is controlling the ON function.

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Old 04-09-2011, 10:19 PM   #3
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3 Way wiring possible wrong?


Your drawing is correct. Where does the second light come into the circuit? Is it supposed to be controlled by the switches? Where does its cable go?
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Old 04-09-2011, 10:31 PM   #4
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3 Way wiring possible wrong?


Quote:
Was the original wiring with both the neutral and ground wired together wrong?
absolutely; YES

without even reading how it was wired, I suspect there is no neutral at the light and they were using the ground for the neutral. This is a very fast and very poor drawing of a 3 way switch. So that is a basic setup. what wires go back and forth through the various boxes is something you need to track.

I didn't know if the feed ran through all the light's switch boxes or not. If it does, let me know and I can alter that pic. How many lights everything passes through.

3 Way wiring possible wrong?-3-way-3.jpg
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Old 04-09-2011, 10:36 PM   #5
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3 Way wiring possible wrong?


The black of the second light should be connected to the black of the first light.

THe white of the second light should be conneted to the white of the first light and not to any ground wires and not to any bare wires up in the ceiling.

See the diagram immediately preceding.
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Last edited by AllanJ; 04-09-2011 at 10:39 PM.
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Old 04-10-2011, 12:26 AM   #6
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3 Way wiring possible wrong?


What kind of dimmer?
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Old 04-10-2011, 04:56 AM   #7
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3 Way wiring possible wrong?


The second light (at the top of my stairs) comes into the 1st 3 way (in my picture and in nap's picture the 3 way on the right). There is no "neutral" there though which I'm assuming is why they wired it to ground? I'm assuming I can't "fix" this without running new wire?

My wiring is pretty much exactly like the image I posted...the extra lights hot goes right into the switch box and it's neutral and ground go to ground.
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Old 04-10-2011, 06:28 AM   #8
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3 Way wiring possible wrong?


you need neutral carried anywhere you use power (the lights).

If you don't have enough wires at any given outlet, yes, you would have to run some new wire. You do not want to use the ground as a neutral. It is against code but even more important, it can cause an unsafe situation.


morepower666 did hit on a possibly important point. I presume you are using a dimmer designed for use with a 3 way switch system.
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Old 04-10-2011, 09:39 AM   #9
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3 Way wiring possible wrong?


You can't wire it without a new cable. You are correct. There is no neutral in either switch box. You need a three wire cable from the first light to the switch box or the second light needs to be cabled to the first light instead of the switch.
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Old 04-10-2011, 02:12 PM   #10
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3 Way wiring possible wrong?


Yes the dimmer was designed for 3-way operation, being dimmible from one end and just on/off from the other.

I can't believe it was wired incorrectly from the beginning. Of course the way they had it wired did make the light "work" properly and me trying to put it back together correctly and not getting the light to work right makes sense.

I'll see if the 12/2 they ran from the first light up to the first 3-way is secure in the wall. If it is I'm kinda screwed as I won't have much of a way of getting another wire up.....if not I can use that to fish a new 12/3 down and use the extra red as a neutral for this light.

Thanks for the replies.
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Old 04-10-2011, 06:35 PM   #11
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3 Way wiring possible wrong?


There is another solution.
Can you bring a power feed into one of the switch boxes, either one it doesn't matter? If so then the existing cables can be used with some rewiring required at the light that currently feeds the switch.
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Old 04-10-2011, 07:58 PM   #12
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3 Way wiring possible wrong?


Quote:
Originally Posted by joed View Post
There is another solution.
Can you bring a power feed into one of the switch boxes, either one it doesn't matter? If so then the existing cables can be used with some rewiring required at the light that currently feeds the switch.
Actually.....yes. The second 3-way is next to a on/off to a outside light and is on the same circuit breaker. I think I understand exactly what your saying...the 12/2 down to the lights would be just for the lights and I can tap the light at the first 3-way off off that. Then I go down to the first light (it's actually a chain of 5) and keep the power from going to that first.

That's a great idea joed, thanks. It will take some planning as the wiring's kind of a mess, they decided the way to connect ground wires was to bundle the ground wires into a ball and shove them into the back of each box. It's also part of a MWBC which has been throwing me off too and where the power comes into the first light box there is 4 some wires coming in (some for other switched lights, some to carry the circuits power to other switches) but it can be done.

-Allan
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Old 04-10-2011, 10:19 PM   #13
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3 Way wiring possible wrong?


As long as the other switch box has a neutral you are all set.
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Old 05-03-2011, 06:17 PM   #14
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3 Way wiring possible wrong?


Just wanted to post and say thanks to joed. I rewired the circuit this past weekend by pulling power from another switch that was next to the "far" 3-way. Then since I already had 12/3 between the 3-ways I was able to carry the neutral up to the second 3-way and down to the light. I removed the original wiring that was at the light and everything checks out. It's a little confusing since the power starts by coming into the first light but then just goes back out but it makes sense in my mind. Also cleaned up a bunch of wires and overall looks better....why the original electrician couldn't figure it out beats me (or did but didn't want to waste his/her time). And on the plus side when I check voltages between legs with the power on the readings look much better. Before between ground and hot I had around 90v and between neutral and hot I had 50v. Now I have 121 between ground and hot and a bit under 7 between neutral and ground (it's a MWBC to top it off so I'm assuming the shared neutral is where the extra voltage is coming from).

-Allan

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